Sunday, 31 March 2013

Faith's First Story!

Faith made this book today and sat down and asked me "Mummy how do you spell Once upon a time?". I helped her to spell it and she sat for ages writing a wonderfully exciting story..... not a punctuation mark in sight but it doesn't matter. It's so exciting when this happens! I love it!! I especially love it as it was all her own idea! It was interesting to see her looking back for words she had already written to see how to spell them again when she wanted them, instead of asking me again. I was able to scaffold some 'spelling thinking' for her which was great and she responded to that and used knowledge from the reading reflex system that we use. The story so far goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a litul girl that went to her Grannys huos and on the way she saw a monst she scream the monst looked rouan at her
her Granny luct out the window and saw the monster chasing the litul gul a way
a wood chopper was chopping wood the monster looked round and started to chasing the wood chopper
I am looking forwards to the next chapter which she is going to write tomorrow apparently!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Slump Over with...... Mojo relocated......

...... somewhere between a hot bath and a bag of compost! Well that's just how it rolls when you homeschool, you find your MOtivation, EnerJy and Optimism (MOJO - geddit??) in the most unlikely places and at the most unexpected of times. After being slightly grumpy about having to clean and wash the car, clean the guinea-pig out (in the singular as one was buried this morning.... yes it had died first, it wasn't just another experiment!) and various other chores, I found that we had a really lovely afternoon!
I am so enjoying the girl's company this week, they are such funny, intelligent, quirky people, full of ideas and fun and surprising conversation! Even Idris who doesn't have a huge repertoire of responses, is fun to converse with, he seems to know when to say yes or no, and when to not comment, reminds me of Dewi sometimes, perhaps it is a man thing??!! He has developed a fascination with keys this week which can be a little painful as he is so very insistent on someone sitting by the front door whilst he tries EVERY key in the door..... come back shoe fetish, all is forgiven!!!!

We have done very little in the way of organised activities this week. I started out Monday with a plan but felt like I was wading through treacle (I wasn't well at the weekend), and as the girls seemed happy in each others company and happy to play, I decided I was happy to let them and allowed myself to take it a little easy where I could. I struggle to do that a little as I feel frustrated by what we aren't getting done out of the list of things we all WANT to do. It always amazes me though how a week like this ends up in positive energy and seeming to achieve things so easily instead of battling through them. I have had a clarity of vision today on how all the plans the girls and I have will slot together over the next week or two and am excited and enthusiastic about them again. Hurray!

We are going to Wales to stay with family for a few days and will be spending time down on the beach and walking by the cliffs. I'm hoping that we'll see erosion in action to illustrate the book we have read together. It will be a great follow-on to the water experiments that we did last week.  I found an overwhelmingly huge Montessori blog today after the owner left me a lovely comment...... her pinterest boards are brilliant and helped me out with a quandary I've been having over our Living Maths curriculum. I've got some ideas now about how to tackle the measurement book that the girls love, and how it will tie in so nicely with measuring up the new veg bed ready to plan our planting schedule for the summer for the RHS Benchmark scheme we are getting involved with. I've rough planned the next human body unit for the girl's science to start in a week's time - the digestive system this time.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Taking Part in the RHS Benchmark Scheme

I chatted to the staff at the RHS stand in the Education Show earlier in the month and they were keen for us to sign up and work through the Benchmark Scheme. At first read through it appears VERY school orientated and it is, because it was designed for schools to encourage them to get children gardening. After reading the criteria for each level, I emailed them and double checked that we were OK to take part as a home educating family as the rewards for completing each level are fantastic. They replied that we were fine to continue on to level three which is about where we are at with our gardening, so we're off, I will ask about level four later. They understand that a family won't have the same evidence as a school and asked that I made it clear when I sent the evidence in that we were an HE family so they could review it accordingly! As I like to be an organised bod, I cut and pasted the information for level 3 into a table in a slightly adapted format to suit HE, and left space to jot down notes and plans for gathering the required evidence, most of which can be photographs at this stage. You can download the level three record sheet from google docs, you just need a google account to access it!
Today we re-potted the sunflower and pea seedlings that we planted at the beginning of March, (thinking that they would be out of doors by now). Unfortunately the continued snow and icy temperatures have meant that they are still on the lounge windowsill and struggling in the egg boxes and ice cream cones that they were sowed into. The girls handled the seedlings very carefully and gently and they were re-potted into recycled cardboard pots donated by Granny and Grandpa!

We also sowed some nasturtiums into the same pots, I have tried and failed to grow these edible flowers before but have wanted to bring some more flowers into our veg gardening for colour, variety and pest control purposes, so fingers crossed this time! the big raised bed that we have is perfect for nasturtiums to trail over the edge, they will look pretty.

I am collecting our photographic evidence here as we document our other home ed ventures here!! I am putting today's activities down against section one (raising funds through various channels) as I think donations of resources are in the same vein as fund raising, section two (gardening sustainably) as all our seedlings are housed in biodegradable and recycled/recyclable containers, and section three (skills progressing, and working together) as they repotted seedlings, handling them appropriately and worked as a team dividing jobs and resources to complete the task.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Earth Science - Structure of the Earth and Plate Tectonics

Read the Meredith Hooper Book 'The Island That Moved' - this is a little long winded for younger listeners, you can shorten the story a bit by paraphrasing it onto post-it notes ready to read to them. Then we sat around together and I reminded the children about the end of our last session when we made a fossil sandwich.....

Do you remember the last time when we talked about fossils and how they were buried under the earth? Do you remember the fossil sandwich that we made? How do you think that those fossils made their way to the surface of the earth to be collected by palaeontologists? Fossils of sea creatures have been found up mountains, what happened to get them up there? (talk about the children’s answers and work towards the earth moving. The story starts way below us at the centre of the earth……  Here is a model of the earth; I’m going to cut it open for us to see what’s inside! (show the play dough model of the earth and cut it open in front of the children for them to see the layers).
There are four layers to the earth:

·        This is the inner core (yellow), it is made of solid metal and it is super-hot.

·        The outer core (orange) is liquid metal and is also very very hot, it is under immense pressure, being squeezed and pressed by the weight above it.

·        The mantle (red) is cooler and more solid than the outer core, but it is liquid enough to be slowly moving all the time, like thick cake mix being stirred through by a wooden spoon, (speaking of cake mix, I made some earth cakes for you to try, break them in half and see if you can identify the layers of the earth).

·        The crust around the outside is made from jigsaw-like plates of rock called tectonic plates that move around very slowly on the mantle and bump into each other. Scientists think that millions of years ago, all of the earth’s continents belonged to one super-continent called Pangaea (show the children the globe with the continents on it, and then give them the felt continents to try and piece together on the zigzag construction paper. Once they have pieced them together then slowly pull the construction paper flat to show the continents moving apart from each other again)
As the tectonic plates move around on the slow-moving magma below (show the map of the tectonic plates), they bump into each other and different things happen (ask the children what they think might happen). From that, four different types of mountains can be formed:
·        Fold mountains occur when two plates collide head on and push against each other. The huge forces involved push the rock up and it folds and creases as it goes (show the children the demonstration with the towels).

·        Block mountains form when two plates rubbing together suddenly shift, they may have been caught for a long time then the rock suddenly gives way and the plates jump past each other. This often leaves a huge block of rock pushed up or one side of the fault jutting up. The shock waves from the sudden jump cause an earthquake (show the children the card moving in the jar of rice layers)
·        Dome mountains are pushed up  by magma, the molten rock is pushing at the solid plate from below and causes an enormous bulge to form in the earth (blow up a balloon covered by a towel with a piece of pipe, a bulge will form in the towel).

·        Volcanic mountains form when molten magma from the outer core and the bottom of the mantle forces its way up through the mantle and through a weakness in the tectonic plate(show the children the volcano model and demonstrate the reaction – remind to put goggles on). It either explodes out of the top with huge force, or trickles out gently and continually. Either way, the magma cools once on the surface and new layers of rock are now present. Under the ocean where oceanic plates move apart from each other, magma moves up into the gap and forms new ocean floor (demonstrate this with the crackers and the red jelly layer).
 The children were all keen to have a go at the practical models, and with their parents sitting around the table helping them out and talking about it with them, there was lots of great chatter and review of important concepts and words. Even the toddlers enjoyed the cracker 'plates' on jelly 'magma' (although they did end up eating most of it!)
 Predictably, the volcano was the most popular activity, and it did get awash with foamy magma after a while and the concrete mix that made the sides of the volcano slid off and ended up in the bin!!
 If I ever see another pan of play dough again I might cry but it was worth all the effort of making bags ful of different colours as the families all made their own play dough earth to take home and the children were really pleased with it! Once again I sourced ideas from various books and websites, adapting some of them. I used ideas from The Homeschool Den, the book 'How the Earth Works' and various pinterest sources which can be found on my pinterest science board (some ideas like the play dough earth have been done in so many ways that the original source is impossible to say!). I have saved the scripted session as a google document for you to use, to access it, you need a gmail address/google account - you don't have to use the gmail, just sign up to be able to access my documents! It was a more effective way of sharing with you than saving PDFs to a remote location!

Friday, 22 March 2013

First Visit of the Year to 'Our Wightwick'!!

We love Wightwick Manor, a National Trust property not too far from us. We hadn't been yet this year and decided to take advantage of the sunny weather last Wednesday to reacquaint ourselves with our old friend! The photos mostly show Wightwick through Idris's eyes as the girls were out of my sight line for most of the visit!! Above he is enjoying looking out of the window of the little heather thatched house at the top of the orchard, where there have been some new apple trees planted to replace natural wastage of some very old apple trees!
......He was very taken with the scarecrow - but a little cross that he couldn't have his stick!!
It was no matter, there were plenty of sticks to be had, Idris was fickle with his sticks, casting one away when he found a better looking one!
Idris loved the little bridge, stomping back and forwards over it and peering down at the water every so often.
Eve and Faith spent time smashing the ice on the lower pool, it was very thin ice and they found how to send bubbles scudding underneath the ice!
 This little water channel connects the upper and lower pools and is usually silted up when we go there. Eve and Faith take great delight in clearing away the debris and watching the water go rushing down the channel, splashing over the little waterfall for Idris to play with.
 Then we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a snow blizzard whilst the sun still shone! When the sun went in and the snow got heavier, we headed for home, after a lovely couple of hours checking up on our favourite haunt!!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Reflections on a Week of Home Schooling

Idris found lots to entertain himself this week around the house whilst I was busy with Eve and Faith - I have occasionally dreamed of the day when this would happen! It was only for 5-10 minutes at a time but it was enough to explain something and get the girls going, and he was so pleased with himself! None of it was contrived, I just went with what he showed an interest in, so potatoes and plant pots started the week.....
Followed by a fascination with a syringe.....
...... and with his tummy and the sensation of a brush on his skin.....
He happily joined in with some model making with a few bits and pieces of his own to fiddle with.
Another day a pot full of paper clips took his fancy......
..... as well chatting to the recorded message on the phone telling him to hang up and try again!!
He enjoyed listening to Eve read her book......
And spent a fantastic 20 minutes getting to grips with scissors and cutting play dough.....
....before whizzing around the lounge on his block trolley being pushed by Faith!

He is still waking up between 4.30 and 5.30 am which is wearing, although the positive effect from it is that the girls are getting up much earlier too and we are busy by 7 many mornings! Idris then sleeps from about 10.30 so I can continue the flow doing the things that need more quiet and concentration when he is asleep!

I have a sneaking suspicion that I took on more than I should have done this week. I hadn't planned on having a cold last weekend which is when I normally organise everything for the coming week so played catch up all week trying to pull things together at the last minute. I have pretty much managed it although there are a few things that still need doing for tomorrow's science session at the HE group. I'm procrastinating about it by blogging instead!! I've just got so many ideas and there are so many things that the girls are interested in, and I'm aware that the pace of life will slow in the summer when we have a newborn to nurture so I'm trying to make the most of the time that we have!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Fabulous and Busy Week!

Above is a beautiful simnel cake that my Mum made for me (wrong way round I know but it has become a sort of tradition that I very much appreciate!). My husband was messing around when I tried to take a picture and his hand got in the way but I picked this photo as when I opened the tin to cut a slice...... the 11th Apostle was missing...... presumed eaten!! I knew who the guilty party was likely to be and his face couldn't lie!!!
Our week has gone well with the girls enthusiastic about what we are doing. As per usual we haven't quite got everything that I planned each day done but that's OK! Science is the hot topic around these parts and we have been looking at the skeletal system this week. Dewi spent three and a half hours building a cardboard skeleton with the girls - a labour of love! I swapped the toddler toys around with the ones stored away and they caught Idris's attention for quite some time a couple of days this week, meaning that I could do things with the girls whilst he was awake for a change! By the way, my house isn't THAT cold, just Idris liked to wear his hat one day this week!!
We tried out an idea I saw about planting seeds in flat-bottomed ice cream cones. I'm not convinced that it is a good idea however, the more the seeds are watered, the more gluey the cones become. I can't see them lasting until the peas are ready to plant out!! My lounge window sill now resembles a green house with various recycled tubs housing different plants and seeds. Having a new raised veg bed to plant up has re-invigorated our planting plans for this year, mainly lead by the girls.
I am loving how one idea flows into another when planning activities out for the girls. As science is a favourite right now, I started out with a vague plan to do some water activities for World Water Day next week. I had a few loose ideas and once I started to search the net for more information and activities/experiments to flesh it out, I found my ideas taking shape and flowing in one direction. I love it when that happens and it all just comes together. I have loads of material to use now, I'm excited about it and just have to narrow it down to what we can fit into a busy week now!
I spent the morning at the NEC Education Show in Birmingham today and it was really useful. I picked up some great ideas, resources and links. I was especially pleased with the dyslexia support information and the science competition and experiment resources I found. My Mum came with me and it was great to spend time together without fielding the children's enthusiasm at the same time! We talked a lot about the children and educational ideas and I came home bursting with new things I want to find out about and try and do. I probably need to prioritise as we can't possibly do everything!! I bumped into some friendly faces too - nice to see you Harriet!!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Making a Family Garden Journal

I made this journal in 2009 when the girls were 2 and four, it was a really special way to record how we enjoyed the garden together and what things enthused them and caught their attention. I took photographs of some of the plants as they grew and opened, pointing out the small details to the children and recording when they came up.
We added collage and art that we made at various times of the year and using materials from the garden.
Here we all sat and observed a large and beautiful hosta leaf and all drew our own picture of it to go into the journal.
I added photographs of outdoorsy things the girls enjoyed and some pages have notes jotted all over them, a little like a baby record book of things we did and said.
 This was the front cover, we unearthed it during my recent decluttering and the girls loved going through it and hearing stories and adding their own memories and exclaiming over things!
So we have decided to do one again this year just as Idris really begins to enjoy the garden. I made this journal the following year in 2010 but we never did use it so I will make a new year label and we can use it this year. I'm looking forwards to the girls adding their own notes now that they both write, and we have a new veg bed to plant up since we made some changes to the garden. Idris loves the outdoors, he was making me laugh this evening as he headed off out into the rain in his vest and trousers with a hoe in one hand and a fork in the other. He stopped, pulled a face (at the rain?), came back in and asked that I put his top back on him, which I helped with. He then turned and stumped back off up the garden in the rain with his hoe and his fork!!!
 I made the journal with lots of rainbow pages of all different textures of paper and card, some corrugated cardboard covers, and I cut, embellished and glued one of dewi's cardigans around the the cover. it is nicely felted as I shrank it in the wash - oops, but it does make a great journal with buttons to do it up!!!!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Hands-on Science Downloads

At the enthusiastic request of "can we do bones next?" from my girls, I have spent some time this weekend researching and putting together some material on the skeletal system. Whilst looking for information, I came across a number of 'unit studies' of the skeletal system, but all were heavily paper based with worksheets and folders to complete and didn't match what I was looking for. I wanted good solid information, and some practical activities to hang it on and bring it alive for the children. I'm not sure if my style of hands-on science is what other people are looking for, but having put in the effort, I'm going to make them more easily available for others to use if they want to.

To do this I'm going to collect them all together on one 'page' of the blog to make them easier to find and choose from. If you look along the top of the page under the big header photograph, you will see the page headings there, click on 'hands-on' science and it will open the page with the science that I have blogged about collected in one place. I've used a picture from each 'unit' and the heading below is linked directly to the post.

As the cardiovascular unit we did seemed to fall naturally into four sessions spread over two weeks, I've deliberately grouped the information into four sections this time, each with one or two practical activities. I have worked out a format for how I like to record the information to make it easy and useful for me, and then added some extra details to make it easy and useful for you, including links, resources and materials needed!! Please note though that the downloads will only be in this format from the skeletal system onwards as I've only just begun to write them this way!  The science units are available as a Google Document that you can download and print.  Can I just say how very pleased I am with myself for working this out???!!!

If you're wondering what age group or year group they are aimed at, I can't give you an exact answer. My girls are currently rising 6 and 8 years old and would be in years 1 and 3 if they were in school, but I haven't related the content to the National Curriculum - I have based it purely on the level I know that they are at. I picked up an idea last week to start with asking what the children know, what they want to know, and how they think they can find out, it is a great way to start a new topic. I refer to the children's ideas all the way through and flex everything to answer their questions and explore their ideas. Encouraging the girls to think through a problem and come up with their own answers by linking together what they already know is a brilliant way for scientific understanding to really sink in and stick with them.

Take a look at the Hands-on Science page and leave me any comments - this is the first time I've made things available and I'm still learning!! Blogger has dictated the order they appear on the page so it may jig around a bit as I add more onto it! I hope you find it useful and enjoyable!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A Day at Chester Zoo

My big brother was here last week visiting from Canada and we spent the day at Chester Zoo together. Chester is a wonderful place, so much to see and do and information about the animals there is balanced with news about the conservation and support work that the zoo is involved with. We actually made some of the talks this time around - they have two baby elephants of three months old, pretty tiny compared to the big ones but still fairly hefty!
Idris made the most of a third pair of arms to give him a better view when he needed it!
The lions enjoyed their joints of beef and we had a close up look at a replica skull to see just how the teeth work when chomping through meat and bone.
Faith compared her hand to a tiger paw print - no comparison really!!
The otter display was new since we last went two years ago and this bubble window arced into the indoor pool where it was fun to see the otters gambling around play fighting with each other.
We don't usually see the chimps outdoors but the early Spring sunshine had tempted them out for some mutual grooming.
The Asian otters were very sweet, they had a new enclosure too, very natural with plenty of water, rock and wood for them.
John and I were taken with the huge hornbills in the tropical house.
I was outside with Idris but the others managed to see the Puma eating his chicken dinner!
Never too big for a shoulder ride!!
I'm fascinated by the Okapis - this is a youngster and was with it's mother, usually they are alone as they are solitary animals in the forest. I think they look as if they are related to the giraffe due to their build and shape but this was ridiculed by the men in my life.....
There was a baby rhino too, very sweet and doddery..... well as sweet and doddery as rhinos get!!
Porcupines, another favourite of mine!

No Uncle John, you can't go, we won't let you, you have to stay with us for ever and ever!!!!!!